A few weeks ago, I did a post (found here) on my gaming roots, covering the period of my childhood through the end of high school. Today I am following up that post with one on my early college years, focusing on my transition from being a predominantly PC gamer to a predominantly console gamer. During this period my experience as a PC gamer reached its climax in the form of two particular games, but also saw PC gaming fade away as the PlayStation 2 came into my life.
The first game was Battlefield 1942, referred to hereafter as Battlefield. I had played a few first-person shooters prior to Battlefield, but Battlefield was the one that finally turned me into an enthusiast for the genre. Battlefield was a World War 2 era shooter that came out back when World War 2 games were still very popular and completely changed the way I thought about shooters. It gave you big maps, lots of vehicles and the freedom to go nuts and see what kind of craziness you could pull off. You could play the game very tactically and coordinate with your team to dominate the map, or you could forget all that, load a jeep full of explosives and drive around looking for a hapless opponent to blow up. The game rewarded experimentation and even had a few hilarious glitches in it. I can still remember the thrill of discovering that if you drove a tank or another large vehicle on top of an antiaircraft gun, it would suddenly be launch high into the sky. Even though I’m not that good at multiplayer shooters, Battlefield kept me coming back for more and I even put in some time on the fantastic Desert Combat mod. Battlefield was the main PC game I played during the first half of my freshman year of college, and it would be followed by an even bigger game that brought me to the apex of my PC gaming career.
That game was Total War Rome, referred to hereafter as just Rome. Strategy games have long been a favorite of mine, and that combined with my love of history came together in a perfect storm of obsession over this game. Rome did something that I absolutely loved in that it was split into what were effectively two games. You had the big campaign map, in which you would manage your cities, conduct diplomacy and move your armies around, but when you engaged in battle you would transition to a battle map. On the battle map you would directly control your army’s individual units and fight a real-time battle against the opposing forces. You could position and maneuver your forces as you pleased and the game would teach you about actual battle tactics from the era. This, combined with other subtle history lessons meant that after awhile you found yourself strangely knowledgeable about this period of history. I played Rome consistently for over a year, until my laptop started to have trouble maintaining both the game and everything else on it. Even at the peak of my time playing Rome, however, the winds of change were already blowing in my gaming life. A new power had risen, and its name was the PlayStation 2.
Up until college I had never had a game console. What little experience I had with console gaming came from visits to friends houses where I got to experience a few games on the Super Nintendo and the Nintendo 64. Console games had my interest, but with limited access to them I was never able to develop a history with them up until my college years. When freshman year of college came and I moved into the dorms, one of my roommates brought with him a Nintendo 64 and a PlayStation 2. While we played the classic N64 games like Mario Kart and GoldenEye, it was the PlayStation 2 games that really grabbed me. Games like Medal of Honor Frontline, Tekken 5, Red Faction 2, Shadow of the Colossus and X-Men Legends gave me a taste of what console gaming could be, and by the end of my freshman year I knew I would be getting a PS2 of my own. As college progressed and I began my sophomore year, I was still playing Rome on a regular basis but I found myself more and more going to the PlayStation 2 first. It wasn’t that I had acquired a distaste for PC gaming, I just found console gaming worked better for me. The PlayStation 2 was easy to use, the controller felt more natural in my hands than a keyboard, and it had its own sizable collection of games to choose from. Console gaming also had the advantage of being more time and cost-effective than PC gaming, as it didn’t require regular hardware and software upgrades to play the latest and greatest games. That last advantage was particularly big for me, as I was a college student who wanted to play a lot of games but also needed to minimize the cost of my pastime. Little by little, the PlayStation 2 became my gaming machine of choice, and with that, my era of PC gaming came to a close.
Though it is now long gone, my time in college as a predominantly PC gamer was a glorious era, one that I still remember fondly. I still have the game boxes and CDs for Battlefield and Rome sitting at my desk, and from time to time I’ll pick them up and reminisce over the college days and how much I enjoyed playing those games. To give you an idea of their lasting influence, the Battlefield series of games are still my favorite first person shooter games and Rome remains my favorite strategy videogame of all time. I might one day get a nice desktop PC and go back to PC gaming, but even if I do, I’m not sure my experience could ever surpass those heady college days when I felt like I was playing the best games ever.